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Why aren't African leaders giving more for famine relief?

African leaders talk often of 'African solutions for African problems,' but the paltry $70 million pledged at an AU famine-relief conference raises questions whether this mantra is just rhetoric.

By Osiame MolefeCorrespondent / August 26, 2011

Internally displaced women wait to receive relief food from a distribution center in Hodon district in the south of Somalia's capital Mogadishu, Aug. 25.

Omar Faruk/Reuters

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Cape Town, South Africa

Only four heads of state – presidents of Somalia, Djibouti, Equitatorial Guinea, and Ethiopia’s prime minister – were present at the African Union’s much-delayed pledging conference on the Horn of Africa crisis. In a statement, the AU said it raised more than $378 million, $20 million of which was in-kind.

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Jerry Rawlings, former president of Ghana, hailed the conference as message to the world that “we are not incapable of supporting our own.”

The need for Africa to take charge of its own future – summed up in the mantra “African solutions for African problems" – has become a unifying call for African leaders these days, and a rebuke to richer Western nations to butt out. South Africa is among the most vocal of those African nations pushing for African-led solutions, and the most critical of Western intervention, from Ivory Coast to Libya.

But the relatively paltry aid response for the Horn of Africa – just $65 million in donations from AU nations, while the rest came from the UN-funded African Development Bank in Tunis – raises questions about just how serious African leaders are about putting their ambitious words into action. The African Development Bank receives funding from its 53 African member nations, as well as from richer nations such as the US, Britain, Canada, China, Germany, and France.

Somalia welcomed the money pledged at the AU summit.

South Africa’s foreign affairs spokesperson, Clayson Monyela, said he was not in a position to comment on how much South Africa had actually pledged. He pointed out that South Africa had donated R8 million ($1.2 million) and provided other forms of support to Gift of the Givers, a non-profit organization that pooled together donations from South African citizens and businesses.

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